Tag Archives: road trip

50 Days by Bus, Plane, Train and Automobile: What They Took Out of Me, and What I Took Out of Them

whew that was a trip

whew that was a trip

On June 29th, I left sunny San Francisco for a 7 week, 50 day journey that took me to the Atlantic and back again. I returned on August 18th to a city in a drought and covered in fog, and since then I’ve been doing some arriving and making sure my soul has caught up with my body.

Part of that has been reflecting on the journey. I took an entire day last week to read through all the gobbledegook that I’d written while I was traveling and come to some conclusions about what I’d learned and left along the way. It was exhausting, but I think I finally have some answers. This includes, quite possibly, the answer to the very meaning of life.

I present to you my findings in the easy-to-digest, easy-to-skim listicle form. Please enjoy these radical truths that I discovered about me, my country and the world around me while I was chasing after the wind.

1. You should bring an umbrella while you’re traveling. Or at least, if you don’t bring an umbrella, don’t buy one at Walgreens under the threat of impending thunderstorm. You’ll pay too much.

2. Giving yourself ample time to reflect on past experiences and current life situations can be incredibly useful. It can also be dangerous and make you dissatisfied with the status quo.

3. When hiking in the woods alone, you should know when bear hunting season is and dress appropriately.

4. Doing something is not necessarily better than doing nothing, and being busy just to be busy is a waste of time.

5. The world and our society is not fair, but we can make it more fair. We can do something.

6. I am not quite as outgoing as I thought.

7. Relationships make everything worthwhile.

8. College was an incredible experience that will not come again. Instead of lamenting the fact it’s gone forever, I should be thankful for it.

9. The decisions I made in the past that seem stupid now did not seem stupid back then. Most of the time, I made the best decisions I could based on the information that I had about who I was and what the world was like.

10. Never miss the chance to use a public restroom.

11. Bring a pillow for the night bus.

12. Seeing that I do not know the future and have imperfect information on the present, it’s quite possible that the decisions I make now will lead to outcomes I cannot even begin to imagine. This is not necessarily a bad thing.

13. Just because a person is in a position of authority, has written a book, or spoken on a stage does not mean they are to be trusted. In fact, they should be scrutinized even more carefully. The ability to perform is entirely separate from actually having good advice or good things to say.

14. If I had been born looking different than I do, it is very likely my life would be completely different and that is messed up.

15. The virtual world melts away when you stop giving it your attention.

16. Routines serve the incredibly important role of keeping you from making too many decisions in one day. The need to choose a different coffee shop, different attraction, new park, etc. while I was traveling eventually became a burden that I kind of resented.

17. There are some things I can change about myself, and some that I cannot. I should not beat myself up over the ones that I cannot change.

18. Things in New York are expensive, and then even a little bit more expensive than that.

19. The madmen, the tinkerers, the outcasts, the diehards, the weirdos, the misfits – most often these are the ones that make it into the museums.

20. Rules are everywhere. The more people that exist in a city, the more rules there are to govern their interactions. Some you need to listen to, and some absolutely need to be broken.

21. Libraries are incredible havens of A/C and bathrooms.

22. Quiet moments of sudden beauty are the best, like when I stumbled on a garden next to an Episcopalian church or when I watched smoke drift into the evening in North Carolina or when I saw a bear or watched a curtain blow in the breeze next to the harbor in Boston and every time I was like “dang that’s beautiful.”

23. YOLO

24. FOMO (fear of missing out) is for people who have no imagination.

25. Humans are incredibly creative and will surprise you always (like when I saw a dude playing a banjo in a tree in North Carolina.)

26. It’s good to spend time with people who aren’t like you (like when I spent a week scooping ice cream with Baptist retirees in North Carolina – a lot happened in North Carolina apparently.)

27. There is nothing quite as pleasant as sitting outside on a summer evening and drinking a cold beer.

28. Returning to one’s hometown can actually be a good experience. Growing up, it wasn’t cool to think that Edmond or Oklahoma City were interesting or worthwhile. I found that that’s not the case and there is much to see and do there.

29. It’s hard to keep what you saw at the mountaintop with you on the plains. In other words, I’m already forgetting a lot of what I learned and thought while traveling.

30. No baggage. No regrets. No BS. Amen.

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The Chapel at Ft. Reno

imageDown the road a ways from Oklahoma City, down Rt. 66 West, you’ll find the city of El Reno. If you’re driving that way you’ll pass right smack through the middle of it. At first glance, it looks like modern times haven’t been too kind to El Reno. Most of the buildings downtown are vacant, little more than glorified pidgeon roosts. You want to believe that this isn’t the whole story, but there isn’t much else to go on. Second and third glances confirm your first glance.

If you park your car and get out and cross the street to the Old Opera House, you’ll see a fading mural on a brick wall. If you walk under the awning, you might be startled by pidgeons swooping down and flying across the street. You’ll notice pidgeon droppings on the sidewalk and broken windows in the shop fronts. It’s the middle of the day but something about this place feels spooky.

You might decide to hurry back to your car since it’s kind of hot outside and that man across the street looks a little wierd. You hate yourself for thinking that but it’s just what you think. If you drive around town, you’ll see some of the old houses where the townies live. Some have porches sunken in, paint peeling off the walls. There’s an old Victorian style house all in brown that must have been beautiful at one time, and there’s a stately house, all white with pillars that looks out of place next to its shabby neighbors. You wonder if everyone knows the family that lives there.

imageInstead of turning back, you continue down Rt. 66 for just a ways to see what else there is to see. There’s a sign for Ft. Reno and you figure you don’t have much to lose but time and you got plenty of that, so you go ahead and exit towards the fort and continue one mile down the road. The landscape is flat and green and brown all around you. There are lines of trees here and there and some gentle sloping but no major hills.

You park in front of the museum, which used to be an officer’s house. You learn that from the woman behind the front counter, who says they now charge admission prices as of August first. It’s two dollars for an adult. She tells you about the fort and how it started as a way to keep the Indians in check and then had some other uses throughout the years as a stablery and some other things. Apparently Seabiscuit’s sire was bred here. Now it’s a headquarters for the USDA. You pass on into the next room and  overhear her talking to another group. Her grandfather had a farm not too far from here.

Outside you can hear cicadas in the trees and someone mowing the lawn. You take a look around the old house and then head out to your car again and drive towards the chapel. This is where they have a lot of weddings during the summer. The chapel is small and not much to look at from the outside. It’s white washed like all the other buildings here and faces the big green lawn at the center of everything.

imageThe door is slightly cracked and you walk in. The first thing that hits you is the smell of warm wood. Everything in the chapel is made out of pine, and the windows are colored yellow so the sunlight coming through them looks like honey. The air is cool in here and you are alone among the empty pews and pulpit. You sit down on a pew near the window and just sit there.

Outside you can hear the man riding the lawnmower still. You can imagine him sweating under his hat, making neat sweeps on the grass which looks all faded in the noonday sun. His feet are hot in his boots. There is a cicada rattling in a nearby tree. You can hear the chapel settling and creaking and almost feel the air as it rises and settles in currents around you. It carries dust with it.

You sit in the light, the light that looks like honey and is warm like teddy grahams. Your hands rest on the smooth, cool wood of the pew, palms down. It feels you have stolen a moment away, that any second someone will call for you or ask you to help with something.

But no one calls. You continue to sit in the Ft. Reno chapel, and outside the man continues circling the lawn until every blade of grass is cut.

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Are you in Georgia? Use this checklist to find out (or at least narrow down the possibilities)


Georgia on my mind.

As of this moment when I am writing this sentence, I am in Georgia. I drove east from Nashville into the heart of the American Southeast and watched the sides of the highway fill up with those shapely Georgia pine trees. So I know that I’m definitely in Georgia.

Unless I don’t. Sometimes I forget where I am. Maybe I’m just in the East Bay where it also gets hot and there are a lot of trees. Maybe I just took the BART train one too many stops and got off in Orinda and started calling it Georgia like a crazy person.

Luckily, I made myself a checklist of ways to determine if I’m in Georgia. If you ever find yourself in this kind of situation, feel free to use this list. If you check off 5 or more of these, then you’re probably in Georgia or at least the Southeast portion of the United States or I’ll eat my socks.

You know you’re in Georgia when….

1. There are more deer, fireflies, squirrels and frogs than people.

2. Liquor stores are called package stores, which causes some people to think of genitalia and giggle.

3. When you accidentally oversleep and end up going for a run at 9:30 on a July morning, the experience is equal to being burned with the heat of a million suns while running in a sauna and choking down steam.

4. The trees are taller than 5 tall men stacked on top of each other.

5. There are more American flags than people and one on every porch.

6. American flags and colors are suitable for decoration in the months preceding and following the 4th of July.

7. Cheese sauce (also known as queso) accompanies salsa at Mexican restaurants.

8. You can say hi to the people on the street without seeming like a creep. They are friendly and will respond positively.

9. Front porches are everywhere and they’re filled with furniture.

10. Kudzo (an invasive plant that looks like ivy) is everywhere, and it is unstoppable. Longterm, it’s probably a more worrisome enemy than many other countries and militant groups.

11. The chicken biscuit reigns king.

12. Chick-fil-a has a presence in the local Kroger.

13. The forecast for every day in July is humid with a chance of thunderstorms and a 100% chance of y’all.

14. Maybe it’s the heat, maybe it’s the humidity, but something about the place seems timeless, like you could buy a home here and live forever while the world spins around you.

15. Jeep Wranglers.

16. Peach lore and Civil War generals make up 90% of local nomenclature.

You might want to hate it. You might want to love it. At the very least, you should sit on the front porch and enjoy a chicken biscuit. If you turn out to be in Orinda, take a walk and then head home, friend. Georgia will await you another time.

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This Just In: Nashville is Pretty Freaking Awesome

Nashville AirBnB Welcome to Nashville, TN. Here you’ll find more spangles and stars in one block than you would in the entirety of some other place with less spangles and stars. It’s a city that greets you with an American flag as big as Texas in the parking lot of a church as soon as you exit the highway. It’s a place of soul and of grit, of banjos and fiddles and tattoos and denim wear.

It’s a place where a 6 year old girl can wear make-up if she wants to and you can buy fancy ice cream from Jeni’s that actually tastes like heaven even though you want to roll your eyes that they call toppings accoutrements (soooo #hipster.) It’s a place where bands sing with American flag microphones and bejeweled jeans with makeup like whoah with a 300 pound male lead singer who has a curly haired mullet and a cowboy hat and is actually really talented. In short, Nashville is awesome.

In my first 24 hours here, I’ve had more conversations with strangers, done more front porch sitting, drank more alcohol outside, and heard more country music than I have in any other 24 hour period in my life.

In this city with the 2nd biggest fireworks display for 4th of July in the entire US of A (2nd only to Washington, D.C.), big things can happen and you’re going to talk to other people about it, especially if they’re strangers that happen to be grocery shopping right next to you.

It’s the kind of place that makes you wonder if you should have been a country music star and maybe the kind of place that makes you realize that it’s never to late to follow your dreams.

All I know is that I’m trying to get in as much beer drinking, front-porch sitting, and firefly watching as possible in the next couple of days. That’s my dream, and I’m going to make it happen.

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13 Things You Can Count on While Roadtripping from Chicago to Nashville

imageLife is confusing. Sometimes you don’t know where to go or what decisions to make. Very frequently, it’s impossible to foresee the outcome of certain paths or situations, and you live in the fog of the unknown. Thank goodness there are some things in life that we can count on, like these things that are guaranteed to happen on the drive from Chicago to Nashville.

1. There will always be a Cracker Barrel every 10 miles. If you’re ever uncertain of where you should exit to get to the nearest one, go ahead and exit. There’s probably one close to you.

2. In these Cracker Barrels, there will absolutely be women named Jean and Barb wearing jeans that go above their belly button with hair dos that the coasts haven’t seen for at least a century, if ever.

3. You will stop and eat at a Cracker Barrel, be really excited about going to an old favorite place, and then realize that it’s actually a little overpriced and not that good. Also, you’ll eat too much.

4. You will enter gas station shopping centers that are complete with clothing options, 24 hour dining, a casino, an arcade and convenience food options. The only thing missing is an apartment complex to attach to it.

5. You will see billboards that say things like “Hell is Real,” or “One Day You Will Meet Thy God,” which will make you wonder who is paying for this and shouldn’t they change their marketing strategy just a little bit. I mean, if I walked up to someone who didn’t believe in Santa Claus and told her that Santa was going to give her 1 million dollars if she filled out an online form, do you think she’d do it? Or would she call the police because there was a stranger hiding in her closet. Exactly.

6. Cars will also start to get preachy, with decals and entire paintings displaying ardor for the Christ.

7. Roadside attractions, like the World’s Most Awesome Flea Market and Dinosaur land, will tempt you from the side of the road. You’ll always wonder what would have happened if you’d taken the leap and exited.

8. You will eat too many snacks in the car and feel a little guilty about it but not really. I mean, what else are you going to do.

9. You will take tons of photos and maybe even videos on the trip that are ultimately unusable.

10. At some point, you will either get lost or notice you have a huge zit on your face.

11. You will keep on waiting for the countryside to change but nothing really happens except Tennessee is a little bit hillier than Indiana.

12. You will realize that you actually didn’t have a very good idea of where Kentucky, Indiana, Tennessee, and Illinois were in relation to one another.

13. You will decide you need to pack up and move to the countryside where life moves a little bit slower

14. You will almost instantly decide that that’s a terrible idea and you’d rather eat your own cardigan than move to the countryside.

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